In June of 1987, a small group of strangers gathered in a San Francisco storefront to document the lives they feared history would neglect. Their goal was to create a memorial for those who had died of AIDS, and to thereby help people understand the devastating impact of the disease. This meeting of devoted friends and lovers served as the foundation of the NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt.
The idea for the AIDS Quilt was conceived in November of 1985 by long-time San Francisco gay rights activist Cleve Jones. Jones after learning that over 1,000 San Franciscans had been lost to AIDS. He asked each of his fellow marchers to write on placards the names of friends and loved ones who had died. Jones and others stood on ladders taping these placards to the walls of the San Francisco Federal Building. The wall of names looked like a patchwork quilt.
Jones and friends made plans for a larger memorial. A little over a year later, he created the first panel for the AIDS Memorial Quilt in memory of his friend Marvin Feldman. Response to the Quilt was immediate. People in the U.S. cities most affected by AIDS — Atlanta, New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco — sent panels to the San Francisco workshop. Generous donors rapidly supplied sewing machines, equipment and other materials, and many volunteered tirelessly.
The mission of the AIDS Memorial Quilt Archive Project is to preserve the powerful images and stories of our fallen brothers and sisters and expand our AIDS awareness and HIV prevention education efforts.
To date all more than 50,000 hand-crafted 3-by-6 panels commemorating the lives of more than 105,000 people who died of AIDS or related illnesses creating a moving and permanent visual record of the AIDS pandemic.
Last month it was announced that AIDS Memorial Quilt is returning home to San Francisco and will be housed at the to the National AIDS Memorial in San Francisco where you can search for panels of loved ones and friends.
God bless all our fallen they will be in our hearts and our memories now and always.
The National AIDS Memorial will mark the 35th anniversary of the AIDS Memorial Quilt with an historic outdoor display in Golden Gate Park that will feature nearly 3,000 hand-stitched panels of the Quilt.
The display will take place on June 11 & 12 from 10 am – 5 pm each day in Robin Williams Meadow and in the National AIDS Memorial Grove.
“This year’s historic community display will be a beautiful celebration of life and a recognition of the power of the Quilt today as a teaching tool for health and social justice. The Quilt is an important reminder that the HIV/AIDS crisis is still not over and there is much work to be done, particularly in communities of color, where HIV is on the rise in many parts of the country.”
The two-day 35th Anniversary event, presented by Gilead Sciences, will feature 350 12’x12’ blocks of the Quilt laid out on the ground, each consisting of eight 3’x 6’ individually sewn panels that honor and remember the names and stories of loved ones lost to AIDS. Visitors will be able to walk through the display to experience each panel, remember the names, and see first-hand the stories sewn into each of them.
It’s both a beautiful and painful exhibit, especially for those who lived through those dark days.
If you have never seen it. Please go and pay your respects